Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Education (SNAP-Ed) offered 190 classes to Allen County residents. Interactive classes teach skills in healthy eating, food budgeting and active lifestyles. For the program, 97 percent of the classes were part of a series with participants reporting positive changes in their food intake, food security and physical activity.
Children learned that good foods and activity keep your body strong and healthy. Eight Head Start classrooms received a series of 12 lessons. Summer programs (an eight-lesson series) were held at three park programs and three schools at the summer food service meal sites – all resulting in 2,214 direct contacts.
Real Money. Real World. is an active, hands-on experience that gives young people the opportunity to make lifestyle and budget choices similar to those they will make as adults. This experience helped 1,125 Allen County middle and high school students explore careers, realize the importance of family budgeting, and how our consumer economy works. After completing the program, students stated: “I didn’t realize how much everything cost,” “It costs a lot to raise kids,” “I plan to change how much I currently spend money,” “I need to change my view on the value of money,” “ It seems like you make a lot, but you don’t once you start paying bills.”
The Allen County 4-H program empowers youth to reach their full potential, working and learning in partnership with caring adults. Allen County membership included 1,202 youth enrolled in 45 community-based 4-H clubs. Plus, 20 adults completed the volunteer screening process, bringing the number of advisers to 196. Based on the minimum 24 hours contributed annually by each volunteer, the estimated value of their service to Allen County exceeded $110,826. Members had opportunities to strengthen their project skills at clinics and 4-H judging. They also completed required animal quality assurance training, livestock interviews and participated in the county fair.
Allen County received $13,500 in 4-H National Mentoring Program funding to begin the 4-H Tech Wizards after-school and summer program at Perry Elementary. Four adults and five teens mentored 20 youth with the goal of developing an increased interested in STEM careers and encouraging them to pursue post-secondary education and training in science and technology. Participants were mentored throughout the year, engaged in a variety of STEM activities including a field trip to the University of Northwestern Ohio’s Robotic Lab, built robots, and visited local grain elevators. Overall, 80 percent of mentees said having a mentor in their life makes a difference.
Allen County 4-H Camp was successfully planned by 32 teen camp counselors. The planning included large group activities, sessions, games and a camp schedule for more than 110 youth campers, as well as designed career development activities. The teen camp counselors researched different activities, set up all the logistics of the activities, worked with budgets and created supply lists for each activity. This year, 20 of the camp counselors also assisted with 4-H Cloverbud Day Camp, where 55 Cloverbud campers attended. The teen counselors planned crafts, sensory learning activities and learning centers all around the theme of dinosaurs.
4-H Cutting Board Challenge has been offered for the second year in partnership with Hardin and Putnam counties sponsored in part by an Ohio 4-H Foundation grant. The project emphasized the importance of food safety, preparing a healthy balanced meal and using fresh local foods while the youth participated in a cooking challenge. This year, 300 youth enrolled. After the program, 100 percent of the youth reported that they could identify cross-contamination and were confident in how to prevent foodborne illnesses.
In Allen County, the primary project of the Master Gardener Volunteer program is The Children’s Garden in downtown Lima. The Children’s Garden serves as an outdoor classroom for horticultural and environmental education to a wide range of guests, from toddlers to senior citizens from diverse social and economic statures. As the only public garden in Allen County, the garden and its programming bring home gardening information to the heart of this increasingly urbanized county. In 2016, 24 free programs were held at the garden for 912 guests aged 3 through 82. In addition, The Children’s Garden is a key component in the growing agritourism industry by hosting organized group tours and 15,000+ visitors throughout the growing season.
The MGVs also lead volunteer opportunities for teens and pre-teens in the community to enhance their knowledge and appreciation of horticulture and environmental endeavors. These groups include middle, junior high school and high school classes; Girl Scouts; 4-H clubs and at-risk youth. This year, we began working with at-risk teens from the Specialized Alternatives for Youth Drop-In Center who volunteered weekly in hands-on gardening projects. Per the SAFY staff, the teens who participated and the MGVs, these activities gave the teens an enhanced sense of ownership in and responsibility for improving the community around them, and a sense of pride and accomplishment.
The OSU Extension Master Gardener Volunteers continue their efforts to sustain the garden, train new volunteers and seek new opportunities to provide quality horticultural programming to the residents of Allen County.
Cooking Matters classes were held at the Spencerville Samaritans food pantry. These weekly classes taught basic nutrition, food shopping and cooking skills. Nine participants graduated by attending at least four of the six classes. The Samaritan House and Head Start parents also attended classes, with a total of 162 direct adult contacts.